When seat belts are a story

If there’s one fact that gets people riled up in the wake of a fatal car crash, it’s the one about whether the deceased were wearing seat belts.

“This is no where near appropriate or respectfull for the family or friends,” a commenter wrote the last time I wrote about the death of someone who wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.

Authorities in Minnesota just last week issued a report saying the state’s primary seat belt law (the one that allows police to stop you if you’re not wearing one) resulted in 68 fewer deaths and 320 fewer severe injuries from 2009 to 2011.

After most fatal accidents, police reveal whether someone was or wasn’t wearing a seat belt and it becomes a difficult issue to write about because it carries a certain connotation that one is responsible for one’s own death. And some people think the victims of accidents shouldn’t be used to make a point.

The issue comes up today because the Kansas State Patrol included this fact in a release about yesterday’s crash that killed five people on their way home to Minnesota:

The patrol’s report on the crash says all five of the family members killed in the accident weren’t wearing restraints. The patrol report also said only two of the injured, including the17-year-old driver, were wearing seatbelts.

The Associated Press headlines the story:

5 From Minn. Killed in Crash Didn’t Wear Seatbelts

In this case, the headline “Survivors of fatal crash weren’t wearing seatbelts” could also apply.

By the way, several days earlier, a highway crash killed a man. He was wearing a seatbelt, but that never made it into the headline.

  • jon

    18 people in an RV, are there even enough seat belts?

  • bsimon

    Re Jon’s comment; the story I heard said the RV was a coverted box truck. The photo on mpr’s front page implies the box disintegrated; leading me to believe anyone not in the cab was likely injured severely, at a minimum. Of course, school busses don’t have seatbelts either.

  • bsimon

    Re Jon’s comment; the story I heard said the RV was a coverted box truck. The photo on mpr’s front page implies the box disintegrated; leading me to believe anyone not in the cab was likely injured severely, at a minimum. Of course, school busses don’t have seatbelts either.

  • I have to question not the seatbelts but rather the wisdom of allowing a 17 year-old to drive such a large vehicle on the interstate.

    Sad, sad story and prayers for this family.

  • Bob Collins

    // school busses don’t have seatbelts either.

    Somewhat different beast.

  • Tyler

    If it’s a converted Freightliner towing a trailer, odds are excellent that the driver, whoever it was, should have had a commercial license.

  • Jennifer

    Ironically in this instance (if this had occurred in MN) the family likely would not have been violating the primary seat belt law. The way the law was written it only requires people to wear seat belts when seated in a vehicle (or part of the vehicle) equipped with them. I learned this nuance of the law the time I called 911 after seeing a couple driving down the freeway with an elementary aged child (probably about 8 or 9 yrs old) riding unrestrained in the bed of the pick up. The State Patrol told me that they couldn’t do anything as that wasn’t illegal since that portion of the vehicle wasn’t equipped with seatbelts. If this vehicle didn’t have seatbelts in the back, the family would have been in full compliance with the MN law.

  • Bonnie

    The Kerber family is unique in many ways. I wonder who is paying all of these hospital bills?

    How much does your health insurance cost if you are a motocross contestant?

    I don’t ride with any 17 year old drivers, period. Sorry kids.

    This is a very sad story in very many respects.

    And I am shocked to learn that it is not illegal to drive down the freeway with a child in the bed of a pickup truck.

  • Joe

    I bet that 17 year old could drive better than 99% of the drivers on the road today since he is a motocross racer. BTW the Freightliner toterhome was destroyed and seatbelts would not have kept everyone safe. When I had my 34ft motorhome the only people that used the seatbelts was me the driver and not the people in the back sitting on the sofa watching TV and some in the back bedroom sleeping. Go ask anyone with a large motorhome if people behind the driver are always belted.

    There is no way his age was the cause of this crash and a 17 year old motocross racer has a reaction time 10x better than the old people driving large motorhomes.

  • Colm

    Please Note:

    Am dyslectic. I find it hard to read, write, understand and remember.

    The Little Secret About Seatbelts That Can Take Your Life!

    July 1998, I was involved in a car crash; I sustained a rather serious injury. People at the scene say, ‘it’s one of the worst ones they’ve witnessed.’ One car lay crumpled with debris spread throughout the intersection, displaying the severity of the crash. A person that knew me was walking by. He spoke to the Garda. “I saw two people in a badly crashed car. Their seatbelt’s held them up. Seeing their faces I knew the person who was driving.”  The Garda took note. 

    Following the accident, I was admitted to the Casualty Department of the Adelaide, from there I was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit of Beaumont Hospital, where I had an operation for a brain haemorrhage; sub arachnoid initiative, cerebral haematoma/surgical evacuation/temporal lobe epilepsy. Coma; I was in Beaumont ICU for almost two weeks. Afterwards, I was transferred back to the Adelaide. After the operation, when I started to talk, everything seemed so strange. I did not know some members of my family, or friends, where I worked, or what I worked at before my accident. Mentally, I returned to my childhood years. During my three month stay at the Adelaide I had to learn to walk, talk, eat, and communicate with people again. Therapists at Tallaght hospital, helped and started me on the road to recovery; it was hard work and all uphill. 

    In November that year I was transferred to the National Rehabilitation Hospital, Dún Laoghaire. The first night in St. Patrick’s Ward, NRH, I lay down to sleep in a private room, I spoke aloud. “I have prayed to you since I was five years old…If you are out their God, please help me!”

    The NRH was all new to me. New surroundings with new people and Nurses that said, “You must do things for yourself now…” I received help from therapists at the NRH. Was determined, worked hard, a lot depends on one’s self; if it is to be it is up to me! 

    In January 1999, I was transferred from St. Patrick’s Ward to St. Bridget’s Ward, and started to attend The Rehabilitation Unit.

    Here, their aim is to return people to work. After eight months, I was discharged, and finished with most therapists at the hospital. 

    A few years after the car crash, a person needed to meet with me.  

    Shortly after I arrived, I was called into their office. They walked over to their desk and asked me to sit down. After a short time they looked at me and spoke. 

    ‘…The seatbelt holder almost killed you.’

    As I left the building I wrote down what was said to me.

    Not long after this meeting the same person telephoned my house; they needed clearance from court to pursue this matter – They were asking a person who sustained a lot of head damage to give permission to proceed? 

    Having a bad memory, I had learned at the National Rehabilitation Hospital, ‘always take notes.’ After the phone call I noted this on my computer, but after a few minutes, I could not remember to give them the ‘go-ahead’ to sue the car makers. Back in 2004, I didn’t know my own name.

    A Judge at the High Court addressed me in the dock, “Sue the car makers…” 

    Cannot understand why this never happened? 


    In Dublin City, Ireland, a High Court Judge, was questioning a disabled person who, for almost two weeks, had been in a coma, 20% alive; sub arachnoid initiative, cerebral haematoma, surgical evacuation, temporal lobe epilepsy.

    Seatbelts were put in place to save life not take it!

    Each time you enter a car, the seat belt you wear may take your life. If the side of your car is crashed into the seatbelt holder can stab you in the head. 

    2012 – Rehabilitation; fourteen years after my car was crashed into, I am asking for help, who to contact?  

    Thank you for your time.